We could pretend this month is about exploring a lot of different film genres…and it still could be. However, since there are so many excellent Korean horror films (and television) in the world, it seems a shame not to highlight one or two on the Collab. As with so many other months of this year, horror seems to be the only thing that makes sense at the moment.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Though happily reunited, sisters returning to their family home must contend with their stepmother’s schemes and the feeling that something supernatural is roaming the halls at night…
After a stay in a psychiatric hospital for murky reasons, young Su-mi is happy to be reunited with her sister Su-yeon in the family’s beautiful but extremely Gothic estate in the country. Even if the cost of the girls’ return home is time spent with their stepmother, the icy Eun-joo.
Though Su-yeon is transparently terrified of their stepmother, Su-mi is watching out for her timid sister, calling out all kinds of problematic gaslight behavior. Eun-joo herself seems rather troubled as she is constantly taking medication and feeling like an outsider in the home she shares with the girls’ father Moo-hyeon.
The sisters aren’t home for long at all before creepy happenings begin to unfold. Su-yeon is terrified when she notices a presence in her room at night that could be her stepmother or a ghostly figure. While Su-mi comforts her and promises to look out for her little sister, both siblings are fairly on edge.
A major source of tension in the household is Eun-joo’s role as caretaker for the girls’ mother when she was terminally ill; during her time with the family, Eun-joo began having an affair with Moo-hyeon. Seeing their stepmother’s face everywhere in old photos, the girls tear her image away and blot out her face with ink.
After finding bruises on Su-yeon’s arms, Su-mi angrily confronts their stepmother. The two get into a fight, escalated by the gruesome murder of Eun-joo’s pet bird. Eun-joo goes so far as to lock Su-yeon in a wardrobe until she receives a satisfactory apology, and things get cranked up to 11 fairly quickly from there. Shocking revelation follows shocking revelation, and you know the battle of wills between Eun-joo and Su-mi can only end with a gruesome outcome.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m never going to regret watching a film that uses the gorgeous but empty manor house as a focal point, drawing attention to literal and figurative haunted family dynamics. The beautiful vintage feel of the house is perfect for the disturbing dark fairy tale we’re told, from the wicked stepmother to mysterious doors and drawers that shouldn’t be opened. Beyond the characters themselves, the house has secrets, and they work to create an ominous tone in the film.
That being said, there are some pacing issues, and the last quarter or so of the film is incredibly confusing. In this section of the story, the filmmakers seem more concerned with creating twist after twist to make the finale extremely dramatic. I don’t love this technique, and rather than a satisfying revelation, the film’s conclusion is a bit of a letdown as there’s too much going on.
Visually, though, I love this film and its commitment to telling a dark, Gothic ghost story where the mere mortals are significantly scarier than anything else that may lurk in the darkness.